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Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.”

      When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

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        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

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          Featured photo credit: Mind Body via beautifulnow.is

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          Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Make It Work

          Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Make It Work

          Messed up sleep can create a long list of secondary issues that can quickly become primary concerns if insomnia or other disturbances continue untreated.

          Lack of sleep, whether it’s medically related or anxiety-driven, can throw off your normal functioning during the day. Concentration becomes difficult, productivity at work or school begins to suffer, irritability can have you lashing out at family and friends, and you also become at risk for serious health issues like heart attacks.

          How can something so simple as sleeping with weighted blankets be a solution to stress, anxiety, insomnia and more?

          Weighted blanket for anxiety and insomnia: how does it work?

          Deep pressure touch stimulation (or DPTS) is a type of therapy that almost anyone can benefit from.[1] Similar to getting a massage, pressure exerted over the body has physical and psychological advantages.

          According to Temple Grandin, Ph.D.:[2]

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          “Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals, or swaddling. Occupational therapists have observed that a very light touch alerts the nervous system, but deep pressure is relaxing and calming.”

          Traditionally, weighted blankets are used as part of occupational therapy for children experiencing sensory disorders, anxiety, stress or issues related to autism.[3] Karen Moore, OTR/L, an occupational therapist in Franconia, N.H says,[4]

          “In psychiatric care, weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control.”

          A weighted blanket molds to your body like a warm hug

          The pressure from a weighted blanket helps relax the nervous system.[5] It’s a totally safe and effective non-drug therapy for sleep and relaxation naturally.

          Psychiatric, trauma, geriatric and pediatric hospital units use weighted blankets to calm a patient’s anxiety and promote deep and restful sleep. In a similar way to swaddling comforting an infant, the weight and pressure on an adult provides comfort and relief.

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          The pressure encourages mood-lifting hormones

          When pressure is gently applied to the body, it encourages serotonin production, which lifts your mood. When serotonin naturally converts to melatonin, your body takes the cue to rest.

          Weighted blankets are typically “weighted” with plastic poly pellets that are sewn into compartments throughout the blanket to keep the weight properly distributed. The weight of the blanket acts as deep touch therapy and acts on deep pressure touch receptors located all over your body.

          When these receptors are stimulated, the body relaxes and feels more grounded and safe, and clinical studies suggest that when deep pressure points are triggered they actually cause the brain to increase serotonin production.

          Benefits of weighed blankets

          Weighted blankets are especially effective at alleviating anxiety. A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.

          Depression, anxiety, aggression, OCD, PTSD, and bi-polar disorder have all been linked to low serotonin levels in the brain, which weighted blankets are reported to assist with. In addition, people battling with depression, mania, anxiety, trauma and paranoia, or undergoing detoxification have reported relief from symptoms.

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          Weighted blankets have reportedly helped patients suffering from a lot of different diseases and disorders, from autism, to Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Restless Leg Syndrome, and even can help alleviate menopausal symptoms.

          How to use weighted blankets

          The weight of the blanket will depend on your size and personal preference, but the typical weight for adults is around 15 to 30 pounds in the blanket.

          Here’s a recommendation on how heavy the blanket should be for different people:[6]

            Experts recommend seeking the guidance of a doctor or occupational therapist if you have a medical condition.

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            Do not use weighted blankets if you are currently suffering from a respiratory, circulatory, or temperature regulation problem, or are recuperating post surgery.

            Where to get a good weighted blanket

            There are many website where you can purchase a weighted blanket in tons of choices of fabric and weight.

            There are specifically blanket shops such as Magic Blanket, created by product developer, Keith Zivalich in California, which have children’s blankets that are 36 inches wide, and adult blankets, which run 42 inches across.

            Another good option is Mosaic Weighted Blankets which sells all-cotton versions.

            Therapy and special needs stores like National Autism Resources also sells weighted blanket. Amazon, Etsy and Ebay all sell them as well.

            Or you can even make your own like this:

            You can find weighted blankets in a variety of sizes, colors, and fabrics. Using weighted blanket is a simple change that can improve your mental health and make a huge difference in your life. Start looking for (or making) one that suits you most!

            Reference

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